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Jamaican-American former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died of COVID-19 complications

Colin Powell, former US secretary of state has died from complications from COVID-19 at the age of 84, it was announced on Monday.

Announcing on social media, his family said they had lost a “remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American”. Powell was also of Jamaican heritage being born to immigrant parents migrated to the United States.

Powell was the first Jamaican-American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Chairman in the United States.

He rose from a childhood in a struggling New York neighborhood to become the United States’ chief diplomat. “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx,” Powell wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey.”

The former US Secretary of State received COVID-19 treatment at Walter Reed national medical center in Bethesda, Maryland and he was fully vaccinated against coronavirus according to his family’s disclosure of his death.

Powell has served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he rose to the rank of four-star general and in 1989 became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.

In his tribute, Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that “General” Powell lived a distinguished life of service and he had the distinct pleasure of meeting him in 2018.

“We have had many good conversations and very interesting discussions about Jamaica and the developments taking place.”

“On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family of former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell as well as the people of the United States,” said Holness in a release on his Facebook page.

Also weighing in on Powell’s death, former US President Bush said Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.

“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” President Bush said. “And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

Powell rose to national prominence under Republican presidents and had considered a presidential bid of his own, but moved away from the party in the later years of his life.

In the last four presidential elections, Powell endorsed the Democrats starting with former President Barack Obama.

He later critiqued former US President Donald Trump in recent years, describing Trump as “a national disgrace” who should have been removed from office through impeachment.

Powell announced that he was no longer a Republican following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In 1962 after joining the US army, Powell was one of more than 16,000 military advisers sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy. A series of promotions followed which led to the Pentagon and assignment as a military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Among his progress, Powell was once commander of the US Army’s 5th Corps in Germany and later was national security assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general, said the news of Powell’s death left “a hole in my heart.”

“The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed,” Austin said. “Alma lost a great husband and the family lost a tremendous father and I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always made time for me and I can always go to him with tough issues, he always had great counsel.”

Powell’s approach to war became known as the Powell Doctrine, which held that “the United States should only commit forces in a conflict if it has clear and achievable objectives with public support, sufficient firepower and a strategy for ending the war.”

His speeches and appearances have often times reflected of fond memories of his childhood in the city of New York, “where he grew up the child of Jamaican immigrants who got one of his first jobs at the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant directly across the East River from the UN headquarters.”

With his background of Caribbean culture, Powell loved calypso music which included the sounds of Trinidad calypsonian the “Mighty Sparrow.”

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